Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why The Writing Process Trumps Everything

For all of you who follow me on a regular basis, you know my opinion on the plotter vs. panster controversy. Plotter rock and pantster have too many problems. Yes, this is blunt, but you get the idea. With that said, I want to push this point again today with the blog and discuss the idea of "The Writing Process."

If you attended any public or private school in the US, the odds are you discussed the idea of the writing process. You covered it in pretty much any class from about the 4th grade on. If you don't remember it, either A) you had an awful teacher; or B) maybe you should have been listening. O.K. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh and extreme here, but the odds are, unless you were in a cave, you have heard of what I am talking about.

As a refresher, the Writing Process essentially has three phases to it. PREWRITING, DRAFTING and PUBLISHING. Each has a purpose. For far too many authors out there, ignoring the writing process is simply creating far too many problems in that final product you send out to the agents or editors, or more likely, creating problems you could have fixed sooner and reduced your writing time. I should also note that the writing process, in no way, eliminates your "creativity" and "personal voice".

Let's review, shall we???

PREWRITING - During this phase you make your initial plans for the story. This is where you take some time to think about what you want to write about and to plan the whole story out. Now don't get me wrong here. I am not asking for a chapter by chapter summary of your story, but I am asking you to know everything about your story, setting, characters and plot. Failure to do so will result in far too many hours having to revamp the entire story because you "thought of something" at about the 3/4 mark in the book. I honestly have to say, there are story ideas that I know the person didn't do this step. The premise alone tells me they wasted time writing a book that would never sell. Had they thought about their topic, they would have realized it would never sell.

Along the same lines, that pre-planning will make all revisions your editor sends to you go a lot easier. Revision notes now will be dealing with fine tuning, not a complete over-haul of your entire book. Fix a comment a character made here, tweak a scene there.

I have said this before and I will say it again. As the saying goes, "If you don't know where you are going you will end up in someplace you don't want to be." And I am sorry, but don't give me that lame excuse of "discovering something on the journey." If you are professional writer, you don't have the luxury of meandering.

DRAFTING - You need feedback. Simple as that. For those of you othere attempting to write these stories on your own, I wish you the best of luck, although frankly, I don't believe you have any hope at success.

Just recently, I wrote about critique partners and finding the right person to work with. Getting feedback from someone who "thinks" they know what to do is not going to help. You need to find someone who "knows" what is going on.

I went to a local conference several years ago, and I was shocked as to how many people were published (and I use that term loosly) with a single e-publisher. I thought it was interesting until I fully thought about it. They were simply teaching everyone only the material "they" knew. Needless to say, this publisher went out of business and the entire group is now lost and struggling. Why? They were attempting to learn from people who didn't have a clue.

Now, what does this have to do with drafting? Simply put - get feedback, but get it from people who really know.

Time for another side note here. There are a ton of agents and editors who can help. You just need to ask. Will it cost? Maybe! will it be beneficial? YES! (see below for offer).

PUBLISHING - This is the clean it up phase. If you have done all of your work early on, this will be easy. This is when you make it ready to go out. No, this does not mean to pay for an editor to charge you $1000's of dollars to run it through a spell checker. It means to use the tools at your finger tips.

In academia, the rule of thumb is 5 mistakes on the first page of a paper is an automatic F. Publishing works the same way. If I see a query letter with grammar errors, the first pages of a chapter with mistakes, what does this tell me about the person's writing ability? The story may be good, but how much work am I going to have to put in just to make it ready for publication? This really goes for many of you in the international market. If you are submitting to the US, have it US ready!

First impressions say a lot and if you submit garbage, don't expect amazing letter from us. As Hallmark says, "When you care enough to send the very best." Sending garbage to me is not going to cut it.

The point I want to make here is simple. Writing takes time. It is not something that can be done overnight with immediate success. Writing is also something that takes work to achieve something good. If you follow that writing process, I can (almost) insure that editors will love you even more because they know they can count on a story that has all (or most) of the holes filled.



  1. Thanks for your rant. The more feedback, the more an author can decide what they stand by in the plot. As for writing, educate yourself. The only excuse for bad grammar or sentence structure is ignorance. I admit being ignorant in some areas and seek help. Even in proofreading my own work, I find my first several drafts to be quite looney. A polished work is a gem. It takes many over-hauls.

  2. Thank you! I have more respect for blunt and not taking things personally than try to decipher words meant to save my feelings.

  3. As I continue through the writing process, I am also continually learning. I learn about the process, about what works for me as I write, about what motivates me, about all the little how to's, and about how much I still have to learn. My father is a building contractor, and he always said that when you build a house, you start from the ground up, you build the house, you trim it out, move in, then realize there are a ton of things you'd change or do differently in the next house you build (a door, a window here or there, type of flooring, etc.). I'm finding that writing is kind of like building that house. The key is to know and understand the basics of building and architecture before digging the hole. What you're not sure of, research, learn from mistakes, and do better next time. Yes, there is a writing process, so for me, the journey is about learning who I am as a writer and where I want to go. With every step I take, I'm learning to do it better next time. I'm building my dream home in my writings and I WILL get it right. Thanks Scott.